Vice President Joe Biden and his entourage spent more than $1 million for hotels and related costs for his official trip to London and Paris last month, according to media disclosures that are likely to cause an uproar on Capitol Hill and among many taxpayers.
Biden's trip to Paris cost $585,000. He spent one night there. His trip to London cost $459,338 and involved 136 rented rooms for several nights. Biden himself was in London for one night.
In both cases, Biden's advance team and scores of other federal officials went to the cities in advance and accompanied the vice president to handle security, logistics, communications and other tasks.
The story was first reported by the conservative Weekly Standard based on information posted on the website of Federal Business Opportunities.
A State Department spokesman didn't dispute the numbers and defended the costs. "They are in line with high-level travel across multiple administrations," the spokesman told CNN. "The contract costs cover the entire range of support, including accommodations for military, communications, Secret Service staff and other support professionals.....Safety and security are not negotiable."
The White House traditionally does not release travel costs for the president and vice president, citing security concerns and the complications of tallying many accounts in numerous departments and agencies. So it's rare to get a specific pricetag for all or part of such trips. And the totals for Biden's visits to Paris and London remain unclear because the costs that have been disclosed apparently don't include flights, which could run into millions of dollars.
Occasionally there are glimpses into the high cost of presidential and vice presidential travel, and the numbers can be startling. A General Accounting Office analysis of President Bill Clinton's trip to six countries in Africa in 1998 pegged the cost at $42.8 million, mostly for operating military aircraft such as Air Force One and backup planes. This estimate did not include Secret Service expenses, which were classified. The GAO said 1,300 people made the trip, which included stops in Ghana, Uganda, Rwanda, South Africa, Botswana and Senegal.
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," for usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at email@example.com, and followed on Facebook and Twitter.